Olimpija in town to face Mac TA in Top 16 duel

Maccabi Tel Aviv has not only won all of its Euroleague home games this season, but it has done so with remarkable ease.

MACCABI TEL AVIV 311 (photo credit: Adi Avishai)
(photo credit: Adi Avishai)
Maccabi Tel Aviv has not only won all of its Euroleague home games this season, but it has done so with remarkable ease.
The yellow-and-blue will be looking to improve to 7-0 in continental play at Nokia Arena when it hosts Olimpija Ljubljana on Thursday, hoping to follow up on the 99-58 victory over Lottomatica Roma last week.
Tel Aviv has triumphed in all but one of its home encounters by double-figures, winning by an average margin of 21.2 points per game. In four of the games, David Blatt’s team opened a double-digit cushion by the end of the first period, but Maccabi’s coach is expecting a far tougher time on Thursday.
“We’re anticipating a very difficult game,” Blatt said.
“Olimpija has achieved some nice results this season.
They’re a very well-coached team that knows how to stand up to every opponent and never gives in. On our own part, we want to play good, positive basketball in order to please our wonderful home crowd and continue the great season we’ve had so far.” Ljubljana began the Top 16 with a road victory in Roma, and came tantalizingly close to beating Barcelona last week, eventually losing 68-67 at home.
The Slovenians had won all their home European games until the defeat to Barca, but have struggled on the road this season, losing four straight contests until the victory over Roma.
“This game is one of our key encounters in the Top 16,” coach Jure Zdovc said.
“We are facing Maccabi, which is playing surprisingly well. Except for their first loss of the season in Vitoria, they showed very convincing performances.
They have a great coach in David Blatt, who I really respect. They change their defensive formations a lot and they are a very versatile team, but they aren’t unbeatable.
“If we will play smart basketball, if we will control offensive and defensive rebounds and their game in transition, I think we can play with them and even surprise a lot of people at the end.”
While no one player at Maccabi averages more than 30 minutes on court per game, Ljubljana has three.
Kenny Gregory (14 ppg, 6.2 rpg), Vlado Ilievski (10.8 ppg, 4.2 apg) and Saso Ozbolt (9.3 ppg) are rarely on the bench, with Kevinn Pinkney (12.6 ppg, 4.2 rpg), Goran Jagodnik (11 ppg) and Damir Markota (8.3 ppg, 4.3 rpg) also all key players for Olimpija.
“We’re in great shape, and coming off of two huge victories, against Rome in the Euroleague and Bnei Hasharon in the BSL,” Maccabi forward Guy Pnini said.
“We start off strong in every game, and we will try and do so once more against Ljubljana. We know exactly how good they are.
“They’ve beaten several of the best teams in Europe this year and put up a great fight against Barcelona. But on our home court, with the energy of the crowd, we come to the game with a lot more confidence looking to get another win.”